Thursday, November 12, 2015

BOISSEVAINS | Before 1940 (Updated Dec. 15, 2015)

The posts that are pulled together here tell the story of the Boissevains and a few closely related families – notably the van Halls and van Lenneps. The family flourished in the second half of the 19th century and the first three decades of the 20th. The Kaiser had allowed Holland to remain neutral in the Great War. The Boissevains found out about Hitler's dirty business dealings early because they were personally affected by the bankruptcy of I. G. Farben in 1936. Other members of the family somewhat better positioned overseas, especially those children of Jan and Charles Boissevain who emigrated to the United States, which recovered steadily after 1933. The Dutch expected a blockade as in WWI and were ready for a blockade. They did not plan for an invasion from Germany. Hitler did.

Why the Boissevains Left France (

The Boissevains left the Dordogne in France after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. They were mostly Huguenot business and professional people who lived around Amsterdam. The Ur-Boissevain was Lucas Bouissavy, who married Marthe Roux. Their son Jérémie had a son Gideon Jérémie, whose grandson and namesake (via Daniel) Gideon Jérémie is a central person in the ancestry of the Boissevain family. This Gideon Jérémie had two sons who flourished especially, Jan and Charles.

2 Jan and Charles Boissevain

The 11 children of Charles

Holland had been neutral in the Great War and prospered after it. In the 1920s, the Boissevain and van Hall families were well off relative to the rest of Europe. Amsterdam - One house at Corellistraat 6 was the home of Jan "Canada" Boissevain, whose father has been consul-general for the Netherlands in Montreal. His wife was Mies van Lennep Boissevain. Their children included Gideon Willem ("Gi") and Jan Karel ("Janka") Boissevain. Eindhoven. Haarlem. Hattem. Naarden. Zandvoort. Zwolle. Homes outside of Holland included Switzerland, Austerlitz, N.Y. and Washington, D.C.

3 Boissevain Businesses in Holland

Jan and the Banking and Shipping Businesses. Charles and the Handelsblad. The creation of the Concertgebouw and hiring of MengelbergBoth Jan "Canada" and Bob Boissevain were in the fertilizer industry and in 1936 I. G. Farben repudiated contracts with foreign partners, bankrupting their Boissevain partners. 

4 Boissevains in Java

5. Boissevains in USA - Robert and Jan

The Jantjes and Charletjes are the relatives I know best.  Many of their offspring left Holland. Robert left because of a split with his wife Rosie [4A]. He formed a business with Jan and Eugen [4B], Boissevain & Co.

6. Boissevains in USA - Eugen

7. Boissevains in USA - Olga's Children Hilda and Willem

Olga followed her daughter Hilda to Washington. Willem followed them. There was cooperation across the Atlantic. Hilda van Stockum illustrated a book on windmills for Jan den Tex. In return, den Tex assisted Hilda decades later when she wrote The Winged Watchman. She later wrote another WW2 book, The Borrowed House.

8. The Nazi Rise in the 1930s and Its Impact on the Boissevains

The Crash of 1929 precipitated a loss of confidence in capitalism that led to the rise of Hitler. Speculators helped create the instability that paved the way for Nazi ideologues and other extremists. Hitler had less than 3 percent of the vote in 1928. He got 18 percent in 1930 and 37 percent in 1932. FDR fixed the mess in 1933, but it was too late to save Germany and the world from the Nazis. Dutch businesses dealing with German firms were soon affected.

9. Holland on the Eve of the German Invasion

1940. In May, Holland was invaded and changed forever.

The above is a summary of posts on The Boissevain Family Before World War II. Other posts/chapters are listed with links in The Boissevain Family in the Dutch Resistance, 1940-45 (

1 comment:

  1. In his book "Daar sta je dan", Dutch violin player Theo Olof spends quite some words on the warm reception by the Boissevain family, after he and his mother had to flee Germany because they were Jewish. The reception at Corellistraat 6 was in sharp contrast with the general attitude in The Netherlands in the 1930'ies, which was all but hospitable.